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THERE'S NO BETTER way to celebrate the inaugural San Jose Grand Prix Champ Car race than to quote legendary British author J.G. Ballard. You see, his 1973 novel Crash is so delightfully vulgar that David Cronenberg just had to finally make a film out of it a few years back. (Don't get it confused with the current movie with the same title.) One of Ballard's most famous works, Crash explores the concept of the car crash as sexual fantasy. Only Ballard would compare semen to engine coolant, and he did it over 30 years ago. The book, obviously, is not for little Johnny, as it's chock-filled with graphic scenes of illicit sex and automobile wreckage.

Ballard's classic equation is "sex times technology equals the future," and whether you like it or not, he's probably right. It'd be a stretch to deem Crash "science fiction," but sci-fi scribes are constantly and successfully predicting the future.

In a synchronicity that tops all synchronicities, a new book of previously unpublished interviews with Ballard, J. G. Ballard Conversations, just arrived from RE/Search Publications. You get a splendid window into the warped Ballard universe, as he improvises off the cuff about almost everything, especially car crashes.

In an interview with San Francisco writer Maura Devereux, Ballard says it all started with a straight-up observation of how people are constantly fascinated by car crashes and how technology continues to play a larger role in society. He treats the accidents as a unique form of violence and here's what he said: "The thing is: as far as the car crash is concerned, in my mind, it's not the car that's the key thing, so much. The car wreck is a symbol of technology. And we're surrounded in our lives—our entire societies we inhabit, are the creations of technology. And we have rather mixed feelings about this ... rather ambivalent feelings about the role technology plays.

"At certain points in this technological world that we inhabit, there are fracture lines that somehow allow us to see through into the reality that lies beyond. And one of those fracture lines is represented by the car crash. It's a collapse in the technological system that has the same sort of revelatory power that, say, an earthquake in a major city has. Or even on a smaller level, something like an elevator failure forces us to—it allows us to—sort of revalue our relationship with the world of machines."

Which brings us to the machines themselves. In case you don't know, these Champ Cars are pinnacles of technology. They're more like a cross between a car and an airplane. There's so much computerized data being shot back from the car to the pit crew, it's pulverizing. During the race, the folks in the pit wind up with information about the car before the driver even does.

According to Ballard, when the machine crashes into the wall, it changes the interior design of our sexual fantasies. This is futuristic out-there stuff, folks, but as Ballard said in the same interview, "I feel that technology and eroticism are moving hand in hand in a way—there's a kind of invisible conspiracy between technology and human eroticism which we're largely unaware of most of the time. You see it revealed in the car crash, or rather in our image of the car crash—which is really what all my stuff is about."

And since the Grand Prix has now descended upon San Jose, allow me to swipe yet another quote, this one from last year's RE/Search publication, aptly titled, J.G. Ballard Quotes: "The car is, in fact, a powerful force for good in its perverse way. And even the car crash can be conceived of—in imaginative terms—as a powerful link in the nexus of sex, love, eroticism and death, that lies at the basis of our own sexual imagination, with its heart wired into the central nervous system of all human beings."

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From the July 27-August 2, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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